It is always an honor when any of the restaurants we’ve blogged about asks us to sample new items they are considering adding to their menu, which is what The Table Creekside and Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar did one Wednesday night in late June. Never has being a “guinea pig” been more delicious!
We were two of about 20 people given the honor of sampling 4 drinks and 4 tapas items at The Table Creekside, before walking over to the gift shop that sits between the two restaurants, and finishing our evening with dinner and dessert at Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar. Fortunately for everyone involved, the very talented Chef Pedro Flores is the Chef de Cuisine at both of these popular establishments.
You can’t beat the view at either restaurant, especially with a cool, summer cocktail, like the Melon Sparkler that greeted us at The Table Creekside. Kayakers rowed slowly past the large picture windows as we enjoyed the watermelon and lemongrass house infused vodka with fresh lemon, watermelon and a splash of champagne. How relaxing. How Florida!
Our first tasting from the new Tapas menu was an equally refreshing Watermelon Lobster Ceviche. Mart and I were seated for 20 minutes or so before our table filled up, and it was challenging not to eat more than our share of this tapas item. Back in the day I would never have imagined pairing watermelon with lobster . . . now I can’t imagine not doing so! The subtle flavors of the juicy lobster and the cool bite of the watermelon are front and center for best summer flavor combinations!
Following that was one of my personal favorites, the Shrimp Arancini. This lovely bite of crunchy, creamy deliciousness is actually a risotto ball with a pillow-soft middle stuffed with shrimp and king crab meat, then lightly fried until hot and crispy, and topped with a sumac remoulade and key lime aoli. The outside was perfectly cooked so that the inside just oozed shrimp and crabmeat that I could dip in the sauces and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Yum to the power of 10!
The Table Creekside is known far and wide for their great happy hours, so the bar chef wanted us to taste several new libations they’d recently concocted. The Pinot Rita was a definite favorite, and an ideal thirst quencher. Pinot Noir is mixed with Silver tequila, muddled with fresh lime and lemon, then garnished with a cabernet salt. You read that right . . . cabernet salt. Who comes up with these brilliant ideas? Mart was licking his off the side of the glass!
With two more tapas tastings followed by two more cocktails, I knew I better slow down a bit. After all, we were still going to dinner after this. But how could I resist the Ahi Tuna Tacos that arrives with a Rosemary Infused Green Tea Ice Pick? The tacos featured Ahi tuna on a blue corn tortilla with shredded cabbage, shaved radish, wasabi cream (yum) and tobiko, aka fish roe! Beside it was a green tea infused vodka, with dehydrated orange slice and fresh rosemary. The longer the rosemary stayed in the glass, the more pungent the flavor. I had hoped the orange slice would rehydrate, for no other reason than to see it happen, but it remained crisp and chewy. A beautiful take on an orange garnish!
Our final tapas was easily Mart’s favorite . . . the Beef Tart Tostones. I don’t know what he liked most, the Tostones (made of Caribbean squash) or the fried sweet potato sprigs that the tapas rested on. All I can say was the dab of guacamole that rested on the citrus vinaigrette seasoned beef was stellar. There was just a hint of jalapeno in the guacamole, which really topped off this amazing bite of Latin inspired goodness. More, please!
Our final cocktail was not to be missed, as we discovered when one of the interns from Channel 7 thought she could carry hers over to Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar. This vanilla infused vodka drink was charged with soda and garnished with fresh basil. I tried to talk the waiter into a lid for the ball jar that it was served in, but no-go. Recklessly, I drank it down, thinking they weren’t serving cocktails at dinner.
After a quick stop in the gift shop, we were seated at a long table in Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar. Once seated I saw the dinner menu – 8(!) appetizers served family style, with 13 more items listed under Main Course / Brazilian Skewers and dessert. Mart had two words upon seeing this tasting menu: Yoga Pants!
I thought I was pretty much done after the 4 tastings at The Table, but when I tasted the Havana Cod Salad, I was ready to wrap my arms around the entire plate, even if it was meant to be shared. With a mixture of potato, red peppers, black olives, cod and egg, this was easily my favorite salad in a long, long time. I begged (no joke) for any remaining portion to go home with me. I was NOT leaving without the rest of the Havana Cod Salad. It was that good.
Fans of hearts of palm will enjoy Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar’s Grilled Hearts of Palm Salad. If grilled hearts of palm sounds intriguing to you, you’ll love this! That slight taste of char was an innovative way to change the flavor and texture of the palm hearts. Pair that up with olives, tomatoes, cilantro and red onions, and we were happy to see the hearts of palm taking the leading role, instead of being upstaged by a plate of greens. Well done!
Other items on the new menu included a huge plate of baked, stuffed oysters. (What would you expect from an oyster bar?) There were two varieties, a bacon topped baked oyster and a seafood stuffed baked oyster. Mart dug right in, taking two at a time, with no looking back. “It’s like culinary waterboarding,” he said. “You could call it death by deliciousness, and I wouldn’t care!” Obviously that man loves his oysters.
One of the daintier bites was the Wahoo Ceviche, a favorite by the ladies at our table. “There is such a great lime taste,” our new friend Olivia, a college intern working for Chef Judi Gallagher of Channel 7 fame exclaimed. “This is my favorite.” No arguments there!
And what seafood restaurant doesn’t have a tasty version of the classic crab cake? At Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar, the crab cakes are about 2 bites each, with a minced pineapple topping that’s as good as it gets! The Mini Crab Cakes came 5 to an order on this evening, and could easily be a main course if adding a salad.
Some of the items we tasted at the oyster bar will be added to the menu, and some will be featured on their catering menu instead. One that should be on both is the Paps a la Huancaina; yucca fries with a Peruvian cheese sauce on the side. Topped with a bit of chimichurri sauce, this Latin take on a French fry is an ideal way to enjoy the often over looked yucca.
As we slowly became cross-eyed and well sated, every course that followed required smaller and smaller bites from all of us. It was then that Chef Pedro Flores and staff came out with yet another coup de grâce – skewers of Brazilian sausages, chicken, pork tenderloin and filet mignon. This serving style is popular in Brazil and Argentina, where they are often served from swords! Even if I wasn’t full, I was going to taste all four protein options. Side them up with one of the fresh sauces from Chef Flores that will soon be available in the expanding gift shop. The chimicurri is always a favorite, but now I can add the cilantro sauce and the pineapple pepper sauce to that list.
The perfect end to this perfect feast found us out on the dock sipping on a housemade chocolate vodka libation, while trying not to eat more than one of the cute-as-a-button Petits Fours prepared by Chef Pedro’s staff!
This amazing evening of hospitality lasted a feature-movie length of over 2 1/2 hours. . . Maybe we could name it “Full and Fuller?”
Sincere thanks to Chef Pedro and the hard-working and friendly staff and management at The Table Creekside and Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar. We’ll look forward to meeting you at the “creek” again soon!